With less than four hours before polls close, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne is making a final push for Washington County voters, but he had to leave his biggest sign behind.
Milne and supporters held signs and waved to motorists in downtown Barre near the “Youth Triumphant” statue, but the campaign’s largest sign remained in the back of a pickup parked on the street nearby.
The sign – measuring approximately 4 feet 6 feet – had been out on the triangle of grass that marks the end of North Main Street until a city official came by and told him he had to remove it, Milne said.
Milne campaigns in Barre Tuesday afternoon. (Josh O’Gorman/staff photo)
Milne said the official told him he was allowed to display hand-held signs only. Mayor Thomas Lauzon – who endorsed Gov. Peter Shumlin in October – did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Milne spent Tuesday morning campaigning in Windsor County before coming to the capital area.
“I think the higher the turnout in Washington County, the better it will be for me,” Milne said.
Photos by Stefan Hard
Things were running smoothly about lunchtime at the polling place at Montpelier’s City Hall, where City Clerk John Odum said compared to two years ago, a presidential election, when voters were lined up on the stairs all the way through to the back of City Hall, it was orderly and well-paced.
Two years ago, for the Presidential election, the lines were down the stairs, and snaked through the back of City Hall — and a voting machine malfunctioned, complicating things, recalled Odum.
With less traffic coming through, and no mechanical issues to report this year, Odum said things were going extremely smoothly.
There were many early votes cast, said Odum, who said turnout through the morning hours had been “steady, not enormous.”
Montpelier’s City Hall was a busy place – with many candidates campaigning out front of City Hall, candidate signs everywhere around City Hall, even the back door, and many parking meters blocked off, and reserved for voting only.
Voting was busier on Election Day morning than Town Clerk Terri Conti expected, she said.
“It’s actually busier than I thought it was going to be, it’s been steady and consistent,” she said.
By mid-morning, just a few hours in, about 25 percent of the town’s about 2,000 registered voters had come through the polling place. With people checking in, many busy behind curtains filling out their ballots, and several on their way to drop their ballots in the box, the official polling place was bustling.
Stopping into East Montpelier Elementary School to vote on Tuesday was, for many town residents, the first time they had seen the inside of the recently completed $8 million renovation to the school.
That taxes are due in two weeks, a chance to actually stop into the brightly-patterned school and see the top-to-bottom renovation, even from a quick look coming in the side door to the polling place, gave voters a feel for the renovation project their tax dollars underwrote, noted Conti. She said people were making comments about how nice the school turned out.
“People are very impressed with the new school,” said Conti, noting the due date for taxes is creeping up this month. “It makes it an easier pill to swallow,” she said of the increase in people’s taxes to cover the school renovation bond.
Election Day, Conti said, “Is my favorite day; you get to see everybody,” she said, getting up to hug someone. “I love my job.”
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Ivan Shadis, the youngest of the candidates from Montpelier hoping to land a state representative seat for Washington County 4, said the day for him was “spectacular.”
“It’s a day I’ve really been looking forward to for a long time,” said Shadis, 26, wearing a winter cap and warm flannel shirt, standing with a handmade sign bearing his name in front of Montpelier City Hall.
“It’s particularly rewarding to see my supporters,” smiled Shadis, a city native who ran as a Progressive, challenging incumbents Mary Hooper and Warren Kitzmiller, both also at City Hall mid-day Tuesday.
The back entrance to Montpelier City Hall on Tuesday. (Amy Nixon/staff photo)
Several of Shadis’s supporters, including some family members at City Hall pulling for him, made him feel valued for the issues he brought to the forefront as a young candidate. Shadis raised issues about housing costs being too high, obstacles in finding decent-paying work, and called for a progressive tax to help improve the picture for those struggling to make ends meet in Vermont.
Of feeling his message was heard, Shadis said, “That itself has made this day spectacular.”
Shadis said he knows a number of people who were “reticent about politics,” at the start of the campaign, who have become impassioned and involved since and that means a lot to him.
“It’s a bit of political culture that I can feel proud to have put some work into,” Shadis said with a smile. He said he plans to stay involved — and be back. “This is our town,” he said of the need for younger voters to be heard.
Why not me?
One Barre voter, disappointed by the Republican Party’s failure to field a candidate for Secretary of State this year, apparently asked himself that question while filling out his ballot today.
“I wrote myself in,” he said before strolling out of the Barre Municipal Auditorium.
There were a couple of morning lulls, but voting was otherwise steady at the Barre Municipal Auditorium this morning.
At noon 1,097 of the Granite City’s 4,950 voters had cast ballots – a figure that included more than 400 of the 477 early and absentee ballots that were in hand when the polls opened five hours earlier.
With five hours to go and most of the absentee ballots already accounted for, the pace of voting will have to pick up considerably to match the turnout in the last mid-term elections. In 2010 a total of 2,772 Barre voters participated in the November election.
Finding parking was occasionally challenging for voters and a mid-morning power problem briefly disabled one of the vote tabulating machines, but today’s election otherwise got off to a smooth start in Barre Town.
By 11 a.m. 776 of the town’s 5,492 registered voters had made the trip to Barre Town Elementary and Middle School where school was in session and the parking lot was filled to capacity.
According to Town Clerk Donna Kelty the 776 voters who cast ballots in the first four hours after the polls opened in the school gymnasium did not include 677 early and absentee ballots that had been requested from her office in the weeks leading up to the election. Kelty said two “super huge boxes” of those ballots were being processed.
Kelty said a “power failure” that briefly idled a vote tabulating machine around 9 a.m. Was quickly resolved.
Nearly 450 Granite City voters didn’t wait until today to cast their ballots.
When the polls opened at the Barre Municipal Auditorium at 7 a.m. City Clerk Carol Dawes had roughly 400 voted ballots in hand and was waiting for about 50 more to be returned.
Dawes said 447 of the city’s 4,950 registered voters either voted early or requested absentee ballots.
Still, Dawes described today’s early turnout as “medium-steady.”
In the first 30 minutes 192 voters cast ballots and by 9 a.m. that number had swelled to roughly 275, not counting the absentee ballots that were being fed into the voting machine by poll workers.
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